I am getting older.
I’ve started to realise why older people might resist change.
It’s not because older folk are arrogant, or think they know better, or because they are lazy or set in their ways. This is what I thought, when I was younger. I thought people stiffened up as they got older, like branches of trees.
But that is not what is happening. I’m just as curious, just as welcoming of new ideas, just as visionary, just as ambitious. I’m just as “flexible”. It’s just that I am becoming less adept.
I notice a very gradual deterioration in faculties. Whereas I used to be able to hold four or five ideas in my head simultaneously, and move them around at will, now it’s not so many and not so easy. Maybe now it’s just two at a time, or three, first thing in the morning. I used to see something done once, and I’d grasped it. Now, you may have to show me several times, and I would like to write it down. These days, it exasperates me how manufacturers get away with writing instructions in tiny font on their products. When I bought a new waterproofing agent for my walking boots, I more-or-less had to guess how to use it.
I have since discovered the magnifying-glass facility on my iPhone.*
I’m still intelligent, but my memory is not so great, my powers of visualisation seem to have diminished, and my eyesight has certainly deteriorated.
So if it’s all new around me, I’m going to be nervous. Walking into a new situation, I am aware that I won’t be able to remember the instructions quite as quickly as I used to. The names and relationships between people won’t stick in my mind as they should. I can’t read notices at a distance, or recognise someone across the room if I’m wearing my reading glasses.
All these things make me acutely aware that when something new is presented to me, I’m going to take longer to accommodate it than I did when my mind was youthful. It’s going to take more effort. I will make more mistakes, because I can’t see accurately, or because I can’t remember precisely, or because I can’t hold numerous new concepts in my mind simultaneously. I’ve not become stupid, I’ve become slightly less capable in certain ways: ways that are important if you need to cope with change.
In addition, even though I’m a physically fit person, I get tired. Working late into the night is no longer an option. So it’s taking me longer to master something new, and I’ve got less operating time in which to do it.
So, on balance, if there’s an old way of doing something , and a new way, I will choose the old way. Because even if it seems inconvenient and lengthy to some people, to me it’s quicker and easier than learning something new. Is that the same as becoming “less flexible”?
Against this, I’ve become both more and less patient.
I’m more patient, because being patient is a skill I have acquired, through necessity.
I’m less patient because I’m aware that life is short, and I am mortal, and the number of midsummer full moons I will witness is now strictly limited and countable. So I have a rising imperative to make the most of the time available.
Making the most of the time available might include learning a new thing. Or coping with a change if I choose to or if I must. For me right now that doesn’t include dealing with a new version of Word, or enjoying it particularly when my bank would like to stop sending me bank statements.
If you are managing change in big organisations, you have people like me. I’m not that old. Remember me. Here’s how to help me cope:
- Tell me what’s happening, and give it to me in writing to help me remember
- Use at least 12 point font in all written communications
- Tell me what’s staying the same
- Give it to me in chunks of three new concepts at a time, maximum, not seven.
- Don’t assume I’m going to enjoy receiving all this new information in an evening seminar.
- Even if you think we should all know you, tell me your name and job title both at the beginning and at the end of the conversation or presentation: use business cards.
This is what I need.
Others will be different. Remember us. We are not all like you.
* The iPhone magnifier is brilliant. Enable it in Settings>General>Accessibility. Use it by triple-clicking the Home button. It uses the camera to enlarge things. It’s a new thing I discovered. It’s great.